Poulsbo Port seeks new attorney

POULSBO — Over the last 20 years, and the last few contentious months, the Port of Poulsbo has used the services of local attorney Greg Norbut. On April 5, the port’s Board of Commissioners voted to find another port attorney.

Norbut said the appointment and subsequent resignation of former Commissioner Arnie Bockus was a factor.

“I just didn’t want to represent the port anymore,” he said Monday. “I have far more to do than things that occasionally occur with the port.” Norbut practices real estate, and probate and trust law from his Poulsbo office.

Bockus lost his reelection bid in November, and then applied for appointment to another commission position vacated by resignation. He was appointed by Commissioner Tony DeCarlo to the position on Dec. 1, before his own term had expired. Commissioner-elect Jim Rutledge questioned the legality of the appointment, and so at a special meeting Dec. 28 — four days before Rutledge took office — DeCarlo and Bockus voted to reaffirm the appointment.

DeCarlo and Bockus said they were advised by Norbut they would be able to appoint Bockus to the position; the only other applicant lived outside the port district. Rutledge, however, said because the vote took place before Bockus vacated his position on the board, he too was ineligible. In an informal opinion, Assistant Attorney General Christopher Lanese cited a common-law public policy principle that a sitting commissioner is ineligible for appointment to another position if the appointment is made during the commissioner’s term.

Norbut wrote to Jeff Even, deputy solicitor general for the Attorney General’s office, stating he was disappointed he was not contacted regarding this opinion, and received an apology in return. Even, however, said the emailed exchange was about the process, not the opinion itself.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with if the conclusion of opinion was right or not,” Even said.

DeCarlo and Rutledge voted to find a new attorney after an executive session during the regular port meeting, and both had “no comment” about their discussion. DeCarlo said the port uses an attorney for advice when needed, but doesn’t use a formal contract.

"I wish the port well, I hold no umbrage," Norbut said.

The port is accepting applications for the vacant commissioner position. The application period will close May 7.


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